The FM Professional

5 TED Talks Every Facility Manager Needs to See

David Spence
May 16th, 2017

TED Talks are influential discussions led by experts from an array of backgrounds and industries. TED stands for Technology, Education and Design—but TED Talks showcase important ideas from all disciplines, covering everything from global issues to everyday life hacks. With TED conferences held in different cities twice a year, the archives are ever-growing.


Facility managers have incredibly varied job roles—their responsibilities include everything from overseeing change management to implementing internal communication strategies and new office technologies. For facility managers looking to stay on top of workplace and technology trends, TED Talks can be a great resource. With topics ranging from employee habits and leadership tactics, to big data and technological innovations, here are some important TED Talks for facility managers to watch.

Jason Fried: “Why work doesn’t happen at work”


Many employees may not consider their offices to be the ideal place for productivity. It seems counter-intuitive, but Jason Fried suggests this stems from a combination of inefficient processes like meetings and involuntary interruptions that can come from well-meaning teammates and managers. He continues by comparing work to sleep—both are processes that require long periods without interruption in order to be effective. Facility managers can use this information to pinpoint ways to reduce interruptions and make the office a more productive working environment.

Want to learn more? Check out our FM Checklist: 8 Tips for Being Productive in a Crowded Office for tips on getting work done in a busier space.

David Logan: “Tribal leadership”


The multiple teams that work in an office collectively form what David Logan refers to as “tribes”. Together, these groups create mutual meaning, gather consensus and rely on each other for a number of functions. Logan provides a simple five-stage framework to understand the quality of relationships within a tribe. Managers can use this guide to quickly understand workplace dynamics and make changes to improve the quality of relationships. This talk is a helpful starting point for teams that are addressing challenges in workplace culture or social dynamics.

Want to learn more? See our article on 4 Tools That Will Simplify Your Company’s Internal Communication for tips on building a cohesive team.

David Autor: “Will automation take away all our jobs?”


Facility management is filled with opportunities to automate processes. Managers might be wondering about the impact these changes will have on employment and jobs in their workspace. Autor provides insight into the history of machines replacing human beings and provides a balanced—albeit optimistic—view of how automation affects jobs. Managers will benefit from understanding the history of automation and how it affects employees. Autor suggests education and training should be placed as a highest priority in order to keep one’s workforce capable in the face of new technologies.

Want to learn more? Read about Internal Facilities Management Processes That Can Simplify Your Office Move to learn about how office software can automate certain processes—without replacing any jobs.

Giorgia Lupi: “How we can find ourselves in data”


Analyzing data is necessary in today’s connected world. Facility managers work with overwhelming amounts of information. Giorgia Lupi’s talk centers around the need to provide human context to data—something that can bring about unforeseen benefits. Her talk works through examples of data usage that incorporate empathy and human nuances. Managers working with data may find these ideas helpful to contextualize the information they work with in new ways. Seemingly unrelated data in areas like scheduling, finances, equipment orders and energy use can hold valuable insight about how the people in a workplace think and feel. Being able to tap into these insights can better inform activities like hiring team members or developing wellness programs.

Want to learn more? Check out What FMs Need to Know About Big Data to read about the implications of big data for facility managers.

Tom Wujec: “Build a tower, build a team”


Tom Wujec’s talk outlines a staple team building exercise—he engages different groups in a simple tower building contest. The competition pits groups like kindergarteners, engineers and CEOs against each other to see who can build the tallest tower within a time limit. The talk unveils some unexpected results, with teams who remove ego and focus on iterative methods winning over teams consisting of people typically in leadership positions. Managers who work with project-focused teams may find this talk especially helpful as it holds valuable information about matching incentives, skill sets and work processes in order to achieve a goal.

Want to learn more? Learn about Building a Strong FM Department for tips on helping your employees grow and work together.

These are just five of the great TED Talks out there—there are hundreds more that could prove useful to facility managers. Whether you’re looking to improve internal communications or wanting new design tips for your office, TED Talks can help spur creative insights and solutions to common workplace problems. Those who seek out relevant knowledge and actively incorporate new methods, processes and technologies stand to gain from a more capable and adaptive workforce. Check out The OfficeSpace Blog for more useful tips on facility management.



Photo: Flickr / TED Conference